The Rocks Off 200: Dwayne Cathey, A Good Man to Scare People With

Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.

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Photos courtesy of Dwayne Cathey
Who? Dwayne Cathey doesn't exactly put the "Rock" in "The Rocks Off 200," though he did his time playing local clubs with Cedar of Lebanon, Guns of August, The John Sparrow and The Tie That Binds. The rock-star life was never really for him, though. What Cathey loves is movies.

When he was a kid the dollar theater became his babysitter. His parents would drop him off with $5 in the morning and pick him up six hours later after watching whatever he could get into. Horror movies were his particular passion, especially double features like Zombie/An American Werewolf in London.

Still, Cathey thought you had to go to Hollywood to work in film so he never gave it much thought. Then one day he was helping his friend Mel House do some basic set-building for his film Closet Space. Once House completed principal photography, he asked Cathey for suggestions on who could provided a little incidental music. Cathey volunteered, and the next thing he knew he was a go-to guy for the local horror-film scene.

Cathey has provided dark tracks for Stacy Davidson's Sweatshop, Josh Vargas' In a Madman's World, and the documentary GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. He enjoys the variety of the work, and serving as a kind of utility infielder for the film scene when it comes up a bit short in the soundtrack department. Since he never has to play the same song twice, he never gets bored.


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Home Base: Most of Cathey's work is done at home in his studio apartment. He'll watch the film he's working on a few times until an idea for music strikes him. Sometimes it comes easy, with the very first take on a piece making it onto the soundtrack pretty much just as it appeared to him, and sometimes it's endless tinkering to get it right. Regardless, he's got his own little nest to do it in.

Occasionally a budget will allow for some more ambitious recordings. When that happens Cathey will call up drummer Ryan Chavez and hit up whatever studio the makers can afford.


Good War Story: "When I was in The John Sparrow, we were opening for Superdrag at the Engine Room," he opens. "We were sort of a rowdy live band."

We had been known to throw our guitars, throw ourselves into each other and trash the stage. On our last song, I ran over to our singer. As I did, he landed on his knees and I landed on top of him.

The next thing I know punches were being thrown my way. I guess I landed pretty hard because he just started swinging. He thought someone had jumped the stage and tackled him.

I got up to everyone staring blankly at me then a towel hit my face. I didn't even know it was our singer hitting me until he stopped. I walked offstage with blood pouring from my head. I walked over to St. Joseph Hospital across the street, got a few stitches, came back and watched the rest of Superdrag's set.

One of the weirdest nights of my life. One minute your opening for one of your favorite rock bands... next you're watching that band with stitches in your face.


Music Scene Pet Peeve: Cathey thinks the Houston music scene has vastly improved in the last four years or so, with a lot more cooperation and camaraderie. His only complaint is that breakups seem endemic.


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Five Desert Island Discs:

  • The Beatles, The Beatles ("White Album")
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience/Otis Redding, Live at the Monterey Pop Festival
  • Sonic Youth, Goo
  • Descendents, Milo Goes to College
  • Clint Mansell, The Fountain OST

Best Show You've Ever Seen: "That's a hard one," Cathey admits. "I've been to more shows than I can remember. I still go pretty regularly, I'm always looking for new music. I've probably seen a show every other week this year, maybe more.

"The Ramones, Social Distortion, Overwhelming Colorfast at the Unicorn Ballroom was amazing," he continues. "The Ramones was one of the first punk bands I ever heard because of Rock N Roll High School so seeing them with Social Distortion at the time it was a lot of power and energy in the room. Might be the most fun I had at a show, and by the time the show was over steam was pouring out the place like smoke.

A couple more: "Sonic Youth, Pavement and Pain Teens at Unicorn Ballroom," he says. "Diamanda Galas' 'Plague Mass' Tour in '91 at the Wortham Theater. I've never seen anyone like her since. She has an amazing voice and a range that make your ears bleed!"


Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.



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